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A Winter’s Worth of Gumbo

I did it! I made four gallons of chicken and sausage gumbo for the family to eat over the winter. Click here to go straight to the recipe, or read on for the expanded version. My recipe is adapted from one given to me years ago by my friend Brian Tucker. I was introduced to Brian’s gumbo one day at a potluck lunch following a martial arts event. For some reason I was among the last to reach the buffet line, which by that time had been considerably picked over and now looked something like the desolation of Smaug, with little remaining besides a few raw carrots and some fried chicken breading crumbs. I was tired and hungry and cold, and as I passed empty serving dish after empty serving dish, my sinking feeling got sinking-er and sinking-er. Then I saw it: a slow cooker near the end of the line, still half full of some rich thick meaty dark mixture, with a stack of bowls placed thoughtfully beside it. I ladled myself a bowlful, and as I ate of the warm, delicious stuff, I thought, “God bless whoever made this gumbo.” I later learned that Brian was the man. I gave him some well-deserved thanks and praise, and he kindly gave me his recipe. I still have Brian’s recipe, a single page printed on both sides with thorough-going, single-spaced prose. Brian is a joyful cook, and his recipe fairly […]

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A Nice Vat of Chicken Stock

What with it getting so chilly and all (predicted highs in the low seventies for Friday and Saturday), I’ve been hankering to make a big batch of gumbo. The thing about gumbo is, I like best to eat it in the cold-weather months (the real cold-weather months, not this low seventies stuff), but okra is a summer-to-early-fall crop. Last year someone gifted us with two pounds of fresh okra late in the summer–just enough for a double batch of gumbo. I froze most of the gumbo, and we happily ate it through the winter. Then a couple of days ago, my mother-in-law sent a bag of okra home with my daughter–again, two pounds, exactly what I need. We just butchered our hog, so we have plenty of smoked sausage ready to go. Perfect timing. Gumbo starts with chicken stock, so I’m making that today. I’m including my chicken stock recipe in this post, and if you’re interested in that recipe and want to go right to it, you can find it here, with ingredients and procedure all compact and straightforward from start to finish without a lot of pictures and digressions and maundering on about the virtues of chicken stock and how I like to use it. If you don’t mind the maundering, read on. I make chicken stock in large vats. I figure if you’re going to make a gallon of chicken stock, you might as well make two […]

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Horses, Dogs, and Grammar

The horses have the run of the acreage, and every so often they mosey up to the house to check in. The boss horse is Monte. He is a big boy, supposedly of mixed Quarter Horse and Belgian Draft lineage, though he has neither confirmed nor denied this, and of a confident and nosy disposition. We’ve been told that he used to work as a rodeo pickup horse–the kind whose riders pick up competitors after they’ve been tossed off the backs of broncs or bulls–but he hasn’t confirmed or denied this either. He’s kind of a reticent horse. Chevy is the latest addition to our horse community. I don’t know his lineage, and he doesn’t have a former career because he’s never been ridden, but he’s a good-looking horse who likes being with the other horses. This morning as my daughter was leaving for work, Monte placed himself slightly behind her car. She honked; he maintained a glacial calm. She started backing slowly; he didn’t move. She nudged him ever so slightly with her taillight; he shifted a greater portion of his bulk into the car’s path. At this point, Chevy decided to join him behind the car. Meanwhile, Feather, a curly black dog of unknown lineage (probably border collie and springer spaniel, but she hasn’t confirmed or denied either), was taking an interest, barking at the horses from inside the yard fence. Inspired, I opened the gate and told […]

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Another Harbinger of a Texas Fall

Welp, it’s finally happened. After weeks of hopeful peeks at my phone, the final day on my six-day forecast shows an expected high that is below 90 degrees. If all goes according to plan, next Monday, the seventh of October, the temperature here in our portion of South Central Texas will not exceed 88 on the good old American Fahrenheit scale. Bonus: the low that night will dip all the way down to 63, punching through the 90-degree-high and the 70-degree-low barriers all in the same 24-hour-period. Break out the hoodies and yule logs! This is as exciting as the First Toad of Spring. Next harbinger of fall: an actual cold front.

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How Hot Is It?

This is the time of year when Texans yearn for the First Cold Front of Fall. Oh, we all know the actual first day of fall most likely won’t amount to much. We’ll go on having 100+ degree days through October. But a cold front will be at least a possibility, and sooner or later, it’ll happen. We’ll get little respites from the heat—brisk, refreshing mornings that make the horses frisk about in the pasture and the cats on the porch sit up and take notice. The heat’ll be back with a vengeance within a day or two, but it will have lost its grip. The cool spells will get longer and cooler. Leaves will turn yellow and drop off the trees, and it’ll be something other than drought stress making them do it. The lush, waist-high weeds that crowd around me during my trips to the compost pile will wither into the spare stalks that always make me want to get out my sketchbook. We’re still a ways off from all that as of yet. Right now, it’s so hot that the cats have been seen panting in the shade of the wraparound porch. The dogs make wallows in the cool(er) dirt in the crawlspace under the house, picking up plenty of grit in their coats to be deposited later indoors. The herbage in the goat paddock is so high and robust that the goats can’t see each other […]

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